Thursday, March 25, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Father Goose

This post is equal parts obscurity and mea culpa.

In 1899 L. Frank Baum's and W.W. Denslow's Father Goose - His Book was published and sold like the proverbial hotcakes. As the Christmas season of 1899 approached, which promised to be a bonanza of sales for the already-popular work, the New York World published either one or two comic section pages based on the book -- an early example of cross-marketing. But things get a little murky here. Ken Barker's New York World index lists only one 1899 page, on 11/19/1899, and says the writing was credited to Baum but that he couldn't identify the artist. I also have an earlier page listed in the Stripper's Guide index, dated 11/12/1899, and I credit both pages to Denslow as the artist. I think I got this info from Cole Johnson but my source notes are mute on the point.

Then in 1900 there were two more pages, one on January 21 and a second on July 22 (pictured). Barker's index gives no writing credit for these pages, but I misinterpreted his listing and credited the pages to Baum in the Guide listing. Then the above sample showed up from Cole Johnson and we see that Paul West did the writing at least on the second and final page. I received this sample early enough to fix the Guide listing for publication, but didn't notice the credit at that time. So the published Guide will have the information for this unusual feature wrong in several different ways, and there are still unanswered question about just exactly how many installments really ran, three or four, and who the credited writers were on each one.

Given the popular interest in Baum I feel really bad about the mistakes in the index, so herewith my public apology. Now ... can anyone unravel this mystery and supply the definitive running dates and credits?

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan!


Hi Alan:

This series was done by Denslow alone (or intandem with Paul West). Since Denslow copyrighted his illustrations to Baum's books he felt that he had a right to use them for his own purposes. Hence, the Fahter Goose pages, as well as his later comic "Denslow's Scarecrow & Tin Man," which ran in 1904-05, the same time as Baum's oz comic page, "Queer Visitors From the Marvelous Land of Oz," which was illustrated by pionweer comic artist Walt MacDougall.

Sunday Press Books just published all of these pages in a sumptious new book, along with a complete Denslow credit listing. I urge you to seek it out.
Hi Nasal --
I scanned over the Sunday Press book looking for info on this series and I see no mention of it. Hate to be so dense, but could you give me a page number? I see no "complete Denslow credit listing" at all. Is my copy a page shy of complete?

So if Denslow wasn't working with Baum on this series, did Paul West do all the writing? Just the last one? And why would Barker credit the 1899 page to Baum if he wasn't credited on the page? That's not like Barker to just make assumptions about writers.

I just checked Alfredo Castelli's "Here We Are Again". I neglected to do this before because I thought his listing for this series would have come from Barker. It isn't, though, and he provides some clarification (though translation of the text in Google is spotty). It appears that the 1/21/00 was credited to Denslow alone, and the 11/19/99 to Baum and Denslow. Although Castelli does list an 11/12/99 episode he doesn't say anything about the credits on that one.


Sorry to be so mis-leasding. I hadn't checked my copy of the Sunday Press book so I didn't realize there wasn't a complete listing. Sorry.

According to Denslow's biography, W.W. Denslow by Douglas Green & Michael Patrick Hearn (1976), the first Father Goose page in 1899 was, indeed, by Baum, with illustrations by Denslow. Then on 1/21/1900 the Post carried a full page drawing by Denslow with no verses except the caption, "Father Goose Shows The Children How to Run A Double Ripper," which is a glorious illustration of Father Goose on a tobaggon coming right out towards the readdr, and then the page you have run with verses by Paul West.

Paul West also collaborated with Denlsow on many of the "Billy Bounce" pages and co-wrote, with Denslow, the book "The Pearl & The Pumpkin" which was published in 1904. This has recently been re-printed by Dover Books, I believe.

Hope this clarifies things a bit.

Bill Jannke aka "Nasal Noteworthy"
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